Sing to the Motherland, Comrade

“Watch, Ride, and Report.”

Believe it or not, that’s the actual slogan being used by CSX in their “turn in your neighbors” campaign... I’m sorry, their train security campaign. But it’s not just the slogan, it’s also the poster on which the slogan appears. Go ahead, give it a look-see. Anyone else start hearing the Hymn of the Soviet Union running through their head?

When I first saw the poster (at alt hippo, who in turn picked it up from Articulatory Loop), I figured it had to be a joke — a bunch of Yes Men-style “identity correctors” putting the posters up in guerilla fashion. I mean, come on, how on earth could anybody be so stupid as to think that using Soviet-style propaganda posters and overtly totalitarian slogans would be a good way to promote citizen security awareness? Or maybe the whole thing was a hoax, and these posters were merely the product of some satirist’s imagination (like the brilliant “Propaganda Remixed” posters from the otherwise misguided* Micah Wright). Who knows? Maybe some crafty graphic designer snuck something past the blissfully ignorant higher-ups, subverting the very message his superiors were trying to convey.

I couldn’t find any corroborating evidence on the ’net — just repeated references to the same original story. So, step one, I dispatched a cohort who rides the MARC line where the poster was reportedly seen to get some photos. That way, I’d at least be able to verify their real-world existence. Step two, I contacted MARC directly and just asked about them.

This morning, I got confirmation: The posters are real. Not put up my the Maryland Transit Administration, but by CSX, with whom MTA contracts service on the Brunswick and Camden lines.

Holy shit. They’re serious. I don’t know which would be scarier — if CSX were just that ignorant... or if they weren’t.

I thought about asking CSX about the poster’s origins, but I thought better of it. After all, if I went in pointing out what idiots they are, they probably wouldn’t send me a poster. And in the end, I’d rather do whatever I can to actually get one of these things as a souvenir.

* For those of you who don’t know the story, Micah Wright engaged in a little propaganda of his own, grossly misrepresenting himself as a former U.S. Army Ranger who participated in the invasion of Panama. Made for good press — hey, here’s a former soldier coming out against the Bush regime — except that it was totally false. Hence his prompt removal from my list of links. Unfortunate that he would completely undermine his message by doing something so idiotic, as the work itself is great.


At 11:31 AM, Tom Bridge said...

My guess is that CSX contracts out their graphic design, and when the designer got the idea of what they wanted, made this up as a joke, but the client loved it and...

At 9:56 AM, Kori said...

Holy crap. I can't tell if that poster looks more like a communist propoganda poster or a WWII German propoganda poster.

I took an "Art and Politics" course when I was studying at the Institut d'Etudes Politiques in France, and we spent a good amount of time on this stuff. The angular faces, the flag holding, the alignment like soldiers---the aesthetic is certainly in keeping with traditional propoganda stuff.

Granted, I'd really like people to report unusual packages. I loved it in Britain where, every few minutes, a very civilized voice comes over the loudspeaker at the train station and says something like, "Please do not leave your bags unattended. All unattended bags will be collected and destroyed."

I picture this room behind the station where they just dynamite luggage. No propoganda needed.


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